Editorial: Another argument punctured about Bridge Creek project

July 31, 2018
Editorial: Another argument punctured about Bridge Creek project

A central argument against the $70 million Bridge Creek project to supply water to Bend was that it would be bad for Tumalo Creek. Opponents, including Central Oregon LandWatch, claimed the city planned to double the withdrawals from the creek. It was a deceptive claim and it did not happen.

Bend City councilors received confirmation of that last week. The project to replace pipelines to supply the city with drinking water was completed in 2016. The data show the city doesn’t take any more water than it did before the project. In fact, it takes less.

Average daily flows in parts of Tumalo Creek below the city’s intake on Bridge Creek increased by about 5 cubic feet per second from Jun 15, 2016 through Dec. 31, 2017. That’s compared to what would have been recorded under the old system, according to an analysis by the Forest Service. It does not even include a more substantial increase between November 9th and 28th 2016 during maintenance.

The bottom line is the project wasn’t bad for the creek. It was good for it.

Of course, you could argue that Tumalo Creek would have been doing even better if the city took no water out of it. But the claim opponents were making was that the creek would do worse with the project.

Opponents went on and on for years about the perils of pipe size. They said a 30-inch pipe meant that Bend was aiming to take much more than the 18.2 cubic feet per second that the city was permitted to take. That claim was hard to swallow at the time. Again, it did not happen. And with the new intake system, there’s an additional bonus. The city can adjust the intake to take only as much water as it needs. Before the project, the old intake was limited to on or off.

Legal costs and delays from opponents added some $6.4 million to the total project cost. Opponents of the project have questioned that figure. But they cannot question that they flooded the debate over Bridge Creek with a misleading claim that the project would be bad for the creek.

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An aerial view of a body of water.